As Paul McCartney sings, “Simply having a wonderful Christmas time,” I see haggard looking parents pushing their gift-laden baskets through the aisles of stores yelling at their kids, “If you ask one more time, we’re going home and never coming back ever again. And you will eat oatmeal from now on. Without sugar. And we’re never going to McDonald’s again either!” (I once threatened to never take my kids to McDonald’s again. Empty threat #302).
Would people describe you as joyful?
Would your co-workers and neighbors? Would your classmates and roommates say you’re cheerful? If your friends knew no other Christians but you, what would their impression of Christianity be? Would little kids describe you as happy or fun? This quote by D Martin Lloyd Jones challenges me:
“Nothing is more important, therefore, than that we should be delivered from the condition which gives other people, looking at us, the impression that to be a Christian means to be unhappy, to be sad, to be morbid, and that the Christian is one who ‘scorns delights and lives laborious days’….. It behooves us, therefore, not only for our own sakes, but also for the sake of the Kingdom of God and the glory of the Christ in whom we believe, to represent Him and His cause, His message and His power in such a way that men and women, far from being antagonized, will be drawn and attracted as they observe us, whatever our circumstances or condition. We must so live that they will be compelled to say: would to God I could be like that, would to God I could live in this world and go through this world as that person does.”
Christians should be joy radiators. And not just at Christmas. This doesn’t mean we’re rosy-eyed Pollyannas who wear pasted on fake smiles all the time. This doesn’t even necessarily mean we feel happy. But there’s a joy in Christ that’s deep and lasting and real. And others should see something of it in us.
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. (Luke 2:10)
Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11)
Think about it. God has freely forgiven our multitudes of sins, counted us righteous in Christ, adopted as his own children, and given us the hope of eternally gazing on Christ’s beauty. His mercies are new every morning and he has promised to never cease doing good to us. Are you feeling joyful yet? No? Ok, he redeems your life from the pit, crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s (Psalm 103:4-5). I hope you are at least smiling a little.
The somber, depressed looking Jesus portrayed in movies wouldn’t attract anyone, much less children, as he mutters in a flat Shakesperian accent, “Suffuh the little children to come unto to me,” with about as much delight as an annoyed junior high school principal talking to a troublemaker for the hundredth time.
Let’s ask Jesus to fill us with so much of his joy that people say, “Would to God I could be like that, would to God I could live in this world and go through this world as that person does.”
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Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four sons and one daughter.
Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.